The California Delta, also known as the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, includes roughly 1,000 miles of waterways that form a triangle spanning from Sacramento to Stockton to Pittsburg. More than 750 species of animals and plants live here, some only found in the Delta and nowhere else in the world. A critical ecosystem to California and to the nation, human activity and invasive species have threatened the land and many of its animal and plant species.
Mammals With Sea Legs
Some of the mammals found in the California Delta include the beaver, river otter, muskrat and shrew. These mammals generally live in riparian habitats, where they build dens and burrows and hunt or forage for food. Delta mammals typically feed on vegetation such as aquatic and woody plants, other mammals such as rodents and rabbits and invertebrates such as crayfish and insects. Mammals such as the river otter also live and hunt in wetlands along the Delta and travel long distances up rivers and streams in search of suitable habitats.
Jump, Scurry and Slither
The California Delta is home to a variety of turtles, salamanders, snakes, toads and frogs. These reptiles and amphibians are terrestrial and aquatic, some preferring one behavior more than the other. Reptiles such as the California tiger salamander spend most of their time in underground burrows to retain moisture, while the red-eared turtle spends time both on land and in the water to hunt and reproduce. Reptiles and amphibians' diets include insects, eggs, birds, snails, fish, plant matter and other reptiles and amphibians.
Scales and Fins
Most of the species of fish in the California Delta are found in slower waters, such as those in the northern area of the Delta. Some types of fish found in Delta waters include salmon, catfish, cod, sunfish and shad. Species such as the green sturgeon are both freshwater and saltwater fish, living in the ocean as adults and swimming to freshwater rivers and streams to reproduce. This species' population is of concern mainly due to reduced resources and spawning areas. California Delta fish typically eat smaller fish, insect larvae, shrimp, plankton and clams.
Flying Into the Delta
Various species of water birds, including ducks, geese, swans, pelicans and herons live in and travel to the California Delta. Birds such as the California brown pelican are permanent residents of beaches and islands along the waterways of the Delta. Although the brown pelican's population is threatened, places like the Nature Conservancy have restored habitats for established and migrating birds. The diet of these Delta birds includes vegetation such as crops of corn, fish, rodents, crustaceans and reptiles.
- National Park Service: California Brown Pelican
- State of California: Delta Species of Concern
- The Nature Conservancy: The Delta - A Water Source for Most Californians
- NOAA Fisheries: Green Sturgeon
- Amphibians and Reptiles of California: Red-eared Slider
- Amphibians and Reptiles of California: American Bullfrog
- Amphibians and Reptiles of California: California Tiger Salamander
- Amphibians and Reptiles of California: Western Yellow-bellied Racer
- California Department of Fish and Wildlife: Great Blue Heron
- San Francisco Zoo: North American River Otter
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